Emergency Medical Services the Subject of Highland County Board of Supervisors Work Session
Emergency medical services dominated the Highland County Board of Supervisors work session Wednesday night. Board Chairman David Blanchard announced that in the ongoing effort to help provide emergency medical services to Highland residents, the county had purchased at auction the old car wash on Main Street to provide space for paid staff and two large bays for ambulances. Blanchard spoke of hearing upsetting comments about the purchase. He voiced his frustration, saying he knows it’s growing pains, but EMS in the county will only work with the efforts of both paid staff and volunteer staff. He said the county is its own agency and it needs facilities and when equipment becomes available, it needs to act. Blanchard said volunteers have been more than gracious to allow the county to use their facilities. He said there were complaints in the past about calls not being answered and now there are complaints about the county paying EMS staff. Blanchard said a call hasn’t been dropped in a year and he feels that’s an improvement. He said with fewer volunteers, the county is trying to cobble it together to be sure people are safe.
Members of the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad attended the meeting and squad member Paul Trible spoke during public comment. He said it appears the county and the paid EMS leadership are determined to eliminate the volunteer rescue squad, because there’s no communication and there’s a serious problem of coordination between the volunteers and the leadership of the paid staff. Trible said they don’t need a new garage and don’t need an ambulance, but they do need a substation in Blue Grass, so they don’t have to go to Monterey for an ambulance. He said the volunteer group feels deceived and is asking how do they work together when every time they find out something, it’s through the grapevine. Trible said no one said anything to the volunteers about purchasing the car wash. He said they do need medics, EMTs and people to help cover the schedule, but they don’t need full time 24/7/365 service for a county with a less than one call a day average. He said they have facilities, apparatus and volunteers and if paid staff leadership would make an attempt to work with volunteer leadership, they would have a much better organization.
Board Chairman David Blanchard also addressed the new Emergency Medical Services fee. He stressed it will take time to work out the kinks in billing. The fee is $150 a year and is billed to owners of habitable dwellings and to absentee landowners with vacant land. Owners of multiple dwellings or multiple parcels of land will only pay one fee. Churches, businesses and service organizations are exempt. Blanchard said there have been complaints from absentee landowners about the fee, but said they too may need EMS at some point.
In other business, the board set a work session to review and to make decisions on all the requests for funding from the CARES Act money. The work session will be 6 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, and will be followed by the board’s regular monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m.